The European Parliament’s decision to change its approach to biofuels has worried the Malaysian government, accroding to a report in Bernama.com.
The Euroepan parliament decided on 11 September that there would be a binding 5% quota on the use of biofuels across Europe by 2015 but that there should be less emphasis on palm oil, soya oil and other edible sources of biofuels. You can read all about it at Euractiv.com. For me (and, I’m sure, many in the biofuel businesss) the key passage in the Euractive report reads like this:
What’s more, the parliamentary committee is demanding that, before2015, a full review of the whole EU biofuel promotion policy and itssocial and environmental impacts be carried out to determine whetherthe targets need revising. This review should “focus on consequences for food security,biodiversity and the availability of electricity or hydrogen fromrenewable sources, biogas or transport fuels from ligno-cellulosicbiomass and algae,” the text reads.
This flies in the face of much of the current thrust of European biofuel industry, and will create uncertainty in the market. That is not completely a bad thing. The difficulty for many existing companies and the trade associations that represent them centres around their needs to keep shareholder/proprietors happy quarter to quarter and year to year. The Parliament, by voting in this way, is hoping to develop a rounded robust biofuels sector that will have little or no impact on food supplies. This has to be preferable in the long term to a biofuel sector that competes for food crops.
The one thing that I don’t like about the vote is that it adds in electricity and hydrogen. I especialy doubt that hydrogen will be a sustainable fuel untill we develop bacteria/algae to produce it from organic material without generating carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is bad because it is currently made using electicity, so the process is less efficicnt than electricity production. There is little or no infrastructure in place to get hydrogen to the point of need.
The European Parliament’s powers vary from area to area, for example, if this decision is seen in the context of agriculture, then parliament can only give its opinion to the Council of Ministers. If its a non-sensitive area then the Council and Parliament have to agree. If there are any experts in the rolls of Council and Parliament out there, I’d like to hear from you.
So where do the Malaysians fit into all of this… They are concerned that the poposed increases in carbon savings that are also included in the parliament’s decison will leave palm and soy oil out in the cold. They might neet to lobby national governements, or be much more imaginative.